Spin the Golden Light Bulb by Jackie Yeager
My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes
Series: The Crimson Five #1
Date Published: January 9th, 2018
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Pages: 280 pages
Synopsis: It’s the year 2071 and eleven year-old Kia Krumpet is determined to build her 67 inventions, but she won’t have the opportunity to unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends at school, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. After she and four of her classmates are selected to compete for a spot at PIPS, they travel by aero-bus to Camp Piedmont to solve a task against forty-nine other state teams to earn their place at the best inventor’s school in the country.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
The first part of this review is completely spoiler-free. There are very minor and vague spoilers in the second part of this review.
Spin the Golden Light Bulb is a debut middle grade novel centering around the brilliant minds of a group of young inventors. It touches on topics such as teamwork, forgiveness, and loyalty, and how to include those values in the achievement of personal goals in the area of one’s passion. It encourages having a mind that is open to all possibilities and to the acceptance of other people. Images of strong relationships—both with friends and family—and learning to come together to achieve a goal in a fair and inclusive way emanate from every page. This is a delightfully wholesome novel for young readers that stresses some incredibly important and positive messages.
In this novel, we are transported to the year 2071, and follow an eleven-year-old girl named Kia Krumpet. Kia is desperate to earn a spot at Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School—or PIPS—so she can begin working on her sixty-seven inventions. But in order to secure her place at PIPS, she must first win a Golden Light Bulb in the Piedmont Challenge, a feat that has not yet been accomplished by any student at Crimson Elementary. If she doesn’t, she will have to choose one category of study to dedicate the next six years of her schooling to, none of which would allow her to achieve her dreams.
After Kia and four of her classmates end up winning the chance to compete for enrollment in PIPS, they travel to Camp Piedmont, where the next phase of the challenge is to begin. There, everyone competing is split into groups and are given a task that they need to solve through the creation of a unique invention. Kia’s group—The Crimson Five—must contend with teams from forty-nine other states and build something that will prove that they have the talent necessary to earn a place at the best inventor’s school in the entire country.
Forming strong, healthy relationships with others is a key part of this narrative. There are many internal obstacles that Kia and the others must overcome in order to accept each other for the way they are. In addition, we are shown the importance of being one’s self and staying true to one’s values. There were times where I felt that Kia was maybe being a bit too immature compared to how she presents herself most of the time. However, this ended up highlighting how much she changes and matures throughout the course of the narrative.
Yeager’s writing itself is very strong and easy to read. Her voice is absolutely perfect for the age of the readers this novel is meant for. She does a brilliant job of vividly creating a fun and distinctive world that stimulates the imagination. The technology is very unique and exciting to envision—almost magical. Yeager’s characters are multi-dimensional and clearly evolve through all the obstacles they must face. The way she portrays the team gradually learning to work together as well as forming trust and, ultimately, close friendships is fantastic.
One problem that I had with the plot of the novel was with the believability of the team’s first approach to creating their major invention. These kids are supposed to be some of the brightest minds in the country, capable of not only building, but imagining all types of gadgets and groundbreaking technology that will power the advancement of society.
Kia’s previous ideas for her own personal inventions are complex and innovative, and they show off her natural skill and remarkable intellect. However, what the team eventual decides on for their major invention is honestly pretty disappointing. It just felt as if they were not showing much if any of the amazing talent that they all clearly possess. It’s hard to believe that their big idea would manifest in the form that it does.
Now, please bear with me for this next part. I do realize how silly this is going to sound since this is a middle grade novel, so I apologize in advance.
I’m left feeling conflicted over my biggest issue with the plot—the ultimate invention they create for the contest. At first it feels like a really neat idea, giving us a unique way to look into the past and learn in detail about any person in history. Being able to essentially bring the past back to life and explore any individual’s role in society would be incredible. However, the invention itself quickly takes a turn for the worse, feeling quite creepy and disturbing rather than uniquely fascinating.
There is a fine line between innocently gaining knowledge and invading privacy, and this quickly descends into the latter category. It becomes particularly concerning when Kia and the rest of the team use their invention multiple times to access records of things like private phone conversations and incredibly personal information.
Everyone’s right to privacy is a very topical discussion, and this novel is an eerily realistic potential future. This story raises the question of what parts of our lives are acceptable to be made public in a database and what parts should be kept out. It delves into an extremely morally gray area under the guise of a fun and innovative creation by a group of highly intelligent young minds.
On top of all this, they don’t actually come up with any of the real mechanics of the invention—they end up taking a previous team’s creation and dressing it up a little bit. That left me feeling very disappointed, as it completely wipes out the most important messages Yeager is trying to convey through this story. The importance of thinking outside the box, being creative, and achieving a goal through teamwork cannot possibly be shown through what they end up doing. Even the initial project they come up with at least demonstrated those themes much better.
Are these things that a young reader in this book’s target age range would notice? Most likely not. These thoughts are just a mixture of my typical over-thinking and my admittedly very cynical adult view of the world. I am definitely not the right audience for this particular novel and I completely realize that.
Overall, this is a good book for children in the range of maybe eight to eleven. It promotes topics that are essential to learn from a young age, and this story is an imaginative and entertaining way to encourage people to open their minds to all possibilities and understand that they all have the ability to do great things. This is not a novel that will necessarily be enjoyable to people of any age, but I would recommend this to young readers due to the positivity of most of the messages at the center of this story.